Friday, November 20, 2009

Crossing your legs and cutting paper with your tongue...

I've wanted to write about the following topics for some time, so I hope my thoughts are clear without being rambling.

In the past few years I have taken notice of the way women sometimes stand. I'm sure you've seen it: feet crossed, legs like an X. I have tried standing like this before and I find it unnatural and unstable. But time and again I see women waiting at tea stands, at movie theaters, outside restaurants, at school, etc, "like that." I have no recollection of ever seeing a man stand that way and I am aware women do not always stand like that, but the disparity between men and women is remarkable. What accounts for this "odd" stance by women? I have three hypotheses, and please pardon my "bluntness" on at least on of them.

First, it could have to do with the female hip structure. Wider hips might incline their legs toward the center. We can see this in the female stride as their feet step inside a narrower space than men's wider plodding. Indeed, part of a "sexy walk" involves "swishing" the rear end as the feet click-clack on a narrow line. So, the women's wider hips might make it more comfortable for them unconsciously, to stand X-wise.

My second hypothesis is that it has something to do with the female crotch and the hymen especially. Bluntly: maybe virgins or sexually less experienced women are literally tighter and less flexible in the crotch, so that natural tension inclines their legs to criss-cross. By contrast, "looser" women (literally) might find less resistance to taking a wider stance. My "virginal hypothesis" could mean virgins and generally less sexually "open" females subconsciously guard their nether regions by standing X-wise. It's no secret in body language that a lusty man, or a man consciously or unconsciously conveying attraction, will sit with his legs wide open like a cowboy on a bar stool. By contrast, women as a rule sit with their legs tightly crossed and a pair of sprawled legs on a seated woman is extremely suggestive.

My third hypothesis is neurological in nature. Based on what I have read in neuroscience and psychology, women's corpus callosum plays a more active, balanced role in integrating the brain's two hemispheres. This is why women are more "intuitive": they naturally display dual perception and dual reflection in the left and right hemispheres because they are simply in better cross-communication than in men's brains. Another important feature of the brain in this hypothesis is what's called "decussation." Decussation basically means neural "crossing-over." It is what accounts for you using your "right brain" when you use your left hand and vice versa. It is what accounts for right-side paralysis in a left-hemisphere stroke. And so on. Now, decussation, like pretty much all features of the brain, is a plastic neural feature, meaning, we can develop it or see it atrophy. One way to enhance decussation, and "stimulate both sides of the brain," is, predictably enough, to do crossed-over exercises. One crossed-over exercise you can try is weaving your fingers together (with your thumbs down) and rotating them inward (along with complex finger motions). Another decussation drill is to criss-cross your feet and hands while doing a vertical stretch and deep breathing. Now, the significance of decussation vis-à-vis the curious female stance I'm discussing should be clear: women frequently stand X-wise as a natural expression, and perhaps even unconscious enhancement, of their decussated brains.

Obviously, I lack the neurological and/or psychological acumen to pick the right hypothesis (or even to discover if any of them is correct). At the same time, though, any combination of them could be true, so perhaps I don't need to weed out the worst hypothesis. Maybe they are all just facets of a single phenomenon: "X-legs."


Now, to introduce my second neurological oddity, let me ask you this: What can I bet you do almost every time you cut a pattern out of a sheet of paper? Stick out your tongue and move it as you cut. Since I started teaching a lot more Small children, I've had to prepare more materials, such as pieces of colored paper, pictures of fruit and animals, paper shapes, etc. So I've had to print a lot of images and then cut them out. I really noticed what my tongue was doing when I cut paper a few weeks ago when I was cutting out the outlines of students' hands which I had traced in class (pattern: "How big is your/my hand?"). The more I focused on cutting closely along the outline, the more my tongue got involved. I thought it was silly for me to act like a child, so I consciously kept my tongue in my mouth... but the more naturally and thoughtlessly I cut, the more my tongue crept out. "How weird!" I thought. Why was my tongue, of all things, so insistent on being involved with my fingers?

Here's my hypothesis: The tongue is one of the most sensitive and neurally articulate organs in the body, rivaled perhaps only by the fingers in sensitivity and precision. I know of a device designed for blind people, which helps them "see" with their tongues. (Here is a long discussion of the device and the benefits of "tongue vision.") The device is like an electronic retainer with a pad of movable "pistons" on it; it's basically an automated Braille reader on your tongue. Over time, patients can learn to navigate the world by "seeing" a tactile representation on their tongues, a representation encoded by optical devices connected to the tongue pad. My hunch is that our tongues move in synchronicity with our fingers as a way of stimulating neural areas used for finger dexterity. Interestingly, I bet it works both ways: the intricate use of our fingers co-activates areas in our brains which stimulates motor action in the tongue.

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